Perth Symphonic Chorus maintains tradition of Handel’s Messiah in face of COVID restrictions | Ralph Lauren

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Handel’s Messiah is like Christmas carols and mince pies to devotees, yet Perth may be alone in hearing it this year amid COVID lockdowns and limitations across the globe.

Perth Symphonic Chorus has since 2006 presented the sacred oratorio, rich in choral and symphonic sounds and steeped in biblical mystery, and this year will be no exception.

“We’re one of the few, if not the only, people putting on the Messiah in full this Christmas,” PSC singer and chairperson Michael Ryan says.

“We’re in a privileged position to present it and the public is privileged to receive it. It’s our Christmas gift to the audience.”

It’s a sobering thought, given Handel’s Messiah has a tradition dating back to 1742.

A joint presentation with Perth Baroque Orchestra under the baton of UWA alumna Dr Margaret Pride, the production features established soloists Sara Macliver (soprano), Fiona Campbell (mezzo) and James Clayton (baritone), with rising star and composer Perry Joyce singing tenor.

“Two things are different this year,” Ryan explains.

“We’ll be singing in mixed formation. Normally we have the sopranos, altos, tenors and basses in one group. Mixed formation is slightly more complicated – we group sopranos, altos, tenors and basses in quartets so you get a slightly better sound.

“And we’re trying to make a dramatic presentation. We’re telling a story, not just singing. The challenge is for the audience to receive it.”

Perth Baroque Orchestra is led by local luminary Paul Wright and all the artists are WA based.

“It’s terrific being able to showcase WA artists,” Ryan says. “We have to do it but it’s lovely that we have that talent.

“It really is a special performance. We have people who have been coming for years, it’s the beginning of Christmas for them.”

COVID regulations limit attendance to 60 per cent of capacity so Perth Concert Hall has sold out Saturday’s sole performance.

“We’re totally unfunded by any government institution so we can only do it the once,” Ryan says.

The Salvation Army Band will be playing festive music in the foyer to warm up the audience, with the opportunity to donate to the Salvos’ Christmas appeal.

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